More tips on how to be progressive in private practice

With the rapid advancement of technology nowadays, to remain in one's comfort zone might actually be regressive. — AMITA SEVELLARAJA

In my previous article, I shared eight tips on how to be progressive in private practice.

As mentioned in that article, most specialists pick up their skills while in government service before venturing out into private practice.

Once they go private, they tend to remain in their comfort zone with the skills they have already acquired.

The reasons for this could be a sense of complacency, or perhaps a fear of complications from new techniques or technologies.

However, with the rapid pace of technological advancement these days, if one does not progress, one will regress.

Here are my remaining eight tips on how to be progressive in private practice.

9. Aim to do things differently

We live in a very competitive world, and many of us do the same things.

You have to attempt to do things differently so that your patients have a better experience and will recommend others to you.

One of the things I’ve done to distinguish myself from others is to edit my patients’ surgical videos and show it to them in 3D.

The other was to create DVDs for my pregnant patients, containing all their ultrasound pictures and videos, and even a video recording of their Caesarean section.

It was a very laborious task that I did for many years, but have since abandoned.

10. Set aside some time everyday for self improvement

I am a lark; I wake up early in the morning to be in my clinic by 6.30am.

The period between 6.30am and 8am is my time for study and self-reflection.

It is during this time that I am the most productive as my concentration is at its peak.

In his book called Deep Work, computer science associate professor Cal Newport suggests that in this distraction-filled world, one must set aside time to do constructive work.

By doing this regularly, one can maximise one’s work productivity.

11. Learn to type

I spend most of my time typing on a computer.

It took me a long time to realise that I could save so much time if I could type with all my fingers, while not looking at the keyboard.

I taught myself to do this, and now, I save a lot of time, while being able to type efficiently.

12. Teach

As the saying goes, the best way to learn is to teach.

I have been teaching throughout my career.

At first, I was teaching medical students; now, I have Fellows in laparoscopic surgery and infertility.

I have also become mentor to many specialists who either come to my operating theatre to watch and assist me in my surgeries, or whom I operate with in their own medical centres and pass on the skills I possess.

13. Give talks

Preparing for a talk is a very good way to learn.

Some of my greatest learning experiences have been when I have been asked to speak on a topic that I have never spoken on before.

A good talk will require extensive research and consolidation of facts.

Besides, one also learns presentation skills.

14. Record webinars

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an explosion of webinars.

I record all the webinars I watch. I will rewatch the good ones and write down what I have learnt.

These recordings will also assist me in the preparation of similar talks in the future.

I file all these recordings in my clinic server so that I can retrieve them easily when required.

15. Publish

Although I have written a book, as well as several chapters in other gynaecologists’ books, one of my greatest regrets until 2019 was that I had never published any paper in peer-reviewed journals.

My excuse was that I was busy in private practice.

Most private practitioners do not publish research papers because publication does not bring in more patients, which is the source of our income.

However, in late 2019, I decided to change this attitude.

I had been in private practice for 25 years and it was time to publish some papers.

I employed a medical graduate to help organise my data, and we managed to write and publish four journal papers.

Now I am keen to publish more.

16. Serve in professional bodies

Over the years, I have served in various professional bodies.

The first was the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia.

I started as an assistant secretary and later rose in rank to become its president in 2019.

I now serve as its endoscopic subcommittee chairman.

I am also a board member and past president of the Asia Pacific Association of Gynaecological Endoscopy, past board member of the International Society of Gynaecological Endoscopy, and a current board member of Asia Pacific Gynaecological Endoscopy group.

Being part of these professional bodies has allowed me to learn so much about leadership skills.

I am in constant touch with the best in the field of gynaecological endoscopy and this has helped me to constantly improve myself.

Through these associations, I am also able to fulfil my passion of teaching endoscopy to young gynaecologists.

I urge all private practitioners to get involved in professional bodies to keep up-to-date in your speciality.

Improve yourself

The common thinking is that self-improvement is the domain of those in the universities or public hospitals, and that a private practitioner’s duty is only to provide service.

I beg to differ.

In his book entitled The Anatomy of Success, the late gynaecological endoscopic surgeon Dr Rakesh Sinha said that there are two types of people in the world: the learners and the non-learners.

The best doctors are the ones who want to constantly improve themselves, i.e. the learners.

By doing so, they are providing the best treatment to their patients.

Dr S. Selva is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and fertility specialist, in private practice in Melaka. This is the 15th and final article in a weekly series about surviving private practice in Malaysia. For more information, email The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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